I always feel a cognitive dissonance when the following happen during a meeting.
Moving deadlines in follow up meetings
- A: What about this task that was due last Friday?
- B: We did not do anything about it.
- A: I remember we already moved the deadline from fifteen days ago to last Friday because we already found out it was overdue. Well, it is a very critical thing to due, let’s put the deadline to next Friday.
- B: I totally agree. It is important and then we must make sure it will be done by Friday, then let’s put the deadline to Friday.
- C: Wait a minute, our past experience showed us that just setting the deadline did not ensure the task would be done. May be we could try to identify why it is not done and fix the issue. May be the commitment is unclear. May be the actions to do are unclear. Or may be we are handling more important matters. In that case let’s not pretend it will be done by Friday, let’s accept it and let’s try to find a more sensible date.
- A & B: The fact the task was not done last week does not mean it won’t be done this week (see straw man fallacy). Also it is important and then it must have a deadline.
Guess what, the task was not done the next Friday…
Overcharging one’s list of todo
- A: I feel bad about not doing this, we should put it at the agenda of next periodic meeting
- B: Next meeting is already known to take longer than expected. If we add something, we must consider putting something else aside.
- A: All of this is important, we must do it all.
- B: Just saying we must do it all won’t make it magically happen.
- A: I don’t like your pessimism.
- B: At least, let’s make the meeting take longer.
- A: We don’t have time to make the meeting take longer.
Guess what, the meeting takes oven longer, while still being scheduled for half its real time.
Somehow, I guess that those are the symptom of people not using a productivity method and instead rely on their intuitive judgment. I also think that they try to move the task far enough in the future so that it does not bother them in the time they have to organise the task. I also think that, then they could realize there is too much to do and they should accept to renegotiate their commitment, they prefer instead to have a false sense of control by letting the task in the system, even though the task is not done after all.
I think that the above is true in personal productivity systems and hence methods like gtd totally help there. But in the case of collaborative environments, I think it is made worse by the bystander effect and conformity.